Lowe's Drills Into the Fast-Growing Wearables Market

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The retail home improvement chain uses smartwatches and smartphones to meet customers’ needs anytime and anywhere.

The wearables market, according to CCS Insight, is expected to triple in size by 2019. Analysts say it’ll be worth more than $ 25 billion with more than 245 million wearables devices sold. Compare that to the reported 84 million units worth $ 15 billion in 2015.

The challenge for many retailers today, however, is putting that treasure trove of data to use—especially to create a more seamless experience for on-the-go shoppers. A company that’s continuing to target its omnichannel customers and work to meet shoppers wherever they are is retail home improvement chain Lowe’s.

“For us omnichannel is the ability for the customer to get any product, anytime, anywhere,” says Eric Hansen, the company’s director of digital experience, product management, and omnichannel integration. “There are so many customers that come with product information already stored in their mobile devices—armed with information when they come to the store. We have to make sure that we’re allowing the customers to continue their journeys all the way through—from their homes to their mobile devices on into the stores.”

Hansen says that wearable technology has enabled marketers at Lowe’s to create that seamless journey for shoppers. “For us and our customers wearables equals watches that are connected to mobile devices—particularly iOS and Android,” he says. Hansen adds that marketers at Lowe’s recognize the connectivity between wearables and mobile devices. Through mobiles apps, which users often access on devices such as Apple Watches, Lowe’s provides shoppers with information such as availability of in-stock items, updated prices, and the nearest Lowe’s store locations based on the customers’ whereabouts.

That frictionless experience, Hansen says, doesn’t even require shoppers to pull out their smartphones—but rather simply look at their smartwatches. “Our goal with that is to identify the customer needs and then provide the answers to those as quickly as possible,” he continues. “We enable a customer to create a list on his phone before he goes to the store, and pull up the list while shopping—through a mobile app while on a wearable device.”

In fact, several major retail chains use proximity technology, which allows consumers’ personal data to be sent over to their wearables through Bluetooth, beacon technology, and other wireless connections. The approach is an attempt to lessen any interruptions, including using an app on a smartphone. Wearables, no doubt, are evolving into a near invisible customer experience tool.

Hansen says that despite some marketers’ hesitation to embrace the wearable trend, the most pioneering companies understand the current impact and future importance of wearable technology. “A lot of us have perked our ears up because we see that the Apple Watches, Fitbits, and Jawbones are the next big thing,” he says. “We see the beginning growth curve, and all of us [as marketers] want to be at the beginning of that trend,” Hansen says.

The home improvement chain’s omnichannel strategy seems to be working, as Lowe’s sales for Q4 in 2015 increased a reported 5.6% to $ 13.2 billion—up from $ 12.5 billion in 2014’s fourth quarter.

“When you look at the features and functions that we provide on those apps, a lot of it is around the in-store experience,” Hansen says. “It’s putting that information that you would need for your store trip, literally, at your fingertips.”

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